| CHICAGO, March 17
CHICAGO, March 17 Baltimore financial adviser
Lyle Benson describes his work as that of "Personal CFO" or
chief financial officer.
His boutique financial planning firm manages money, but it
also does everything from bill paying to estate planning, even
assisting clients' adult children negotiate terms for their
first automobile purchase or mortgage.
"We coordinate and work with all of our clients' advisers"
including attorneys, accountants and insurance agents, says
Benson. "We make sure everyone is on the same page and working
The services necessary to quarterback a client's complete
financial life, often referred to as family office services, are
not just for the ultra-rich. Benson says anyone with investable
assets of more than $2 million can benefit from such
comprehensive oversight. At his firm, those services are used by
more than 30 percent of clients.
"The family office piece evolved," says Benson, who charges
clients an annual fee - typically $6,000 to $30,000 based on the
complexity of their financial picture - to manage their
comprehensive financial life. In addition to investment
management, tax services and estate planning, those
responsibilities include strategic planning for the long term,
education of and communication with family members, the
administration of trusts and family foundations, and general
hand-holding where needed.
Traditionally, family offices - both single- and
multi-family - were set up with the sole purpose of handling
financial affairs for ultra-wealthy families. But the sustained
economic downturn sparked interest in those services at all
levels of wealth, prompting more advisers to provide some of
these offerings, says New York consultant Hannah Shaw Grove, an
expert on private wealth management. In part, that is because
having someone watch their backs boosted clients' general
comfort levels amid the instability of volatile markets.
"Clients are very interested in having a family office-type
experience, one that feels more personal and customized in
nature," she says, noting that demand for these services has not
waned. "Wealthy clients are very receptive to the idea of one
centralized team. That's where the opportunity exists."
OUTSOURCING SOME SERVICES
For those financial advisers who cannot afford to bring
experts in specialty areas like tax preparation or bookkeeping
in-house, they can start by developing a network of providers to
whom they can outsource those services, Shaw Grove says.
Over the years, she has identified specialists who take care
of everything from museum-quality storage of clothing and
collectibles to closing down second homes in the offseason, even
those who provide research on specialty healthcare services such
as drug rehabilitation and geriatric care.
"They add a lot of value," she says, adding: "Make sure you
find the providers you're comfortable with because they're a
reflection on you."
Often, first-generation wealthy clients do not realize how
the inclusion of family-office services can simplify their
personal lives, says Susan Tillery, a certified public
accountant (CPA) and financial adviser who began offering family
office services shortly after forming her firm in 2006.
With offices inside of CPA firms in Washington D.C. and
surrounding areas, the firm typically helps successful
entrepreneurs and other self-made types by providing services
that include investment and estate planning, as well as the
coordination of outside providers such as attorneys, CPAs and
"We provide family office services for those who don't
qualify to be in a multifamily office," says Tillery, whose
background includes working in a traditional multifamily office
on behalf of ultra-high-net-worth clients.
Tillery, who does not manage assets, charges a fee for a
full-year engagement that ranges from about $6,000 up to
$30,000. During the first year, she meets with clients once a
month as they develop an overall financial plan, including
estate and investment planning.
In order to meet increasing demand for family office
services, Gene Diederich, CEO of St. Louis-based Moneta Group, a
financial services firm, added his own internal accounting firm
that now includes 16 of his firm's 240 employees.
He also hired an internal estate-planning attorney and
started a trust company in conjunction with his firm's trust
partner, National Advisor Trust Co. These days Moneta provides
family offices services to about 35 families with $50 million or
more in assets. Diederich often flies around the country to
facilitate annual family meetings.
"They (clients) wanted a 'one-stop shop' where they could go
and get everything done," Diederich says.